Saturday, September 17, 2011

Associate Pay May Be on the Rise Again

An article on reports:

 According to a survey of midlevel associates by The Legal Intelligencer affiliate The American Lawyer, the average base salary nationally for midlevel associates at the responding firms this year was the highest in five years and represented a 4 percent increase, from $178,164 last year to $185,319 this year.

According to the article, a number of large Philadelphia based firms have raised their starting salaries.


September 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A college uses Group-on to attract students

From the Chicago Tribune:

Higher Education just got cheaper — for one course.

National Louis University on Tuesday will offer a Groupon for a graduate-level introduction to teaching course, officials said.


With the Groupon, prospective students can save nearly 60 percent on tuition for the single, three-credit course and earn credit toward a graduate degree, said Jocelyn Zivin, the vice president of marketing and communications for the Chicago-based, private university.

There are all kinds of factors in the K-12 world that are really discouraging teachers and people seeking teaching degrees," Zivin said. "We'd like (potential students) to understand what the realities are, whether you are committed to this profession ... and see if you have what it takes."

This is the first time an academic university has used the website as an effort to boost student interest, said Julie Mossler, Groupon's communications director.


The course, tailored for people with no exposure or experience with teaching, is specifically structured for the Groupon deal and is open to anybody with an undergraduate degree, she said. National Louis will offer the course only at its Chicago campus, 122 S. Michigan Ave.


"We wanted the course to cover the broad and deep landscape of teaching," Zivin said.


Regular tuition for the course is $2,232. Groupon will offer it for $950, officials said. The Groupon will go live Tuesday and will be available until Wednesday or until it sells out. Only 25 slots will be available, and the deal will tip at 15, Zivin said. The class will meet for three hours on Monday evenings, from late September to December.


Although the course will count toward a graduate degree, it's only worth three of the 36 credits students need to graduate, Zivin said. Prospective students will need to go through the school's regular admissions process to take further courses.


"Part of our mission at National Louis, since the university's founding 125 years ago, is to identify people of talent who want to be teachers," she said. "This is an innovative way to deliver on that mission and reach those folks."



September 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Clickers and student cheating

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

As soon as the handheld gadgets called "clickers" hit the University of Colorado at Boulder, Douglas Duncan saw cheating.

The astronomy instructor and director of the Fiske Planetarium was observing a colleague's physics class in 2002, when the university introduced the electronic devices that students use to respond to in-class questions. He glanced at the first row and saw a student with four clickers spread out before him. It turned out that only one was his—the rest belonged to his sleeping roommates.

The student was planning to help his absentee classmates by "clicking in" for the sleepers to mark them present. The physics professor had to tell the student that what he was doing was cheating.

Clickers—and the cheating problems that accompany them—have become a lot more common since that day, many instructors say. Today, more than 1,000 colleges in the United States use the devices, which look like TV remotes.

At Boulder alone, about 20,000 clickers are in use among the university's 30,000 students. In addition to using them to take attendance, professors pose multiple-choice questions during class, students click answers, and software instantly projects the responses as charts at the front of the room. Particularly in large classes, that lets instructors assess student comprehension in a matter of seconds.

But the system can be abused. Students purchase remotes and register the devices in their names. Those who choose not to attend large classes can simply ask friends to bring along their clickers and get whatever credit the instructor assigns for showing up.

. . . .

Mr. Bruff, the clicker expert and a fan of the devices, says the concerns about cheating are not exaggerated: He sees students boasting about it on Twitter. "I saw one where a guy took a photo with his camera of the clickers he had on his desk—his and four of his friends'—and he was basically bragging about it." Mr. Bruff says he attends education-technology conferences throughout the country and is constantly asked how to curb abuse.

Certain situations lend themselves to wrongdoing, he says. "The larger the class size, the easier it is for students to get away with it, and so the more likely they are to do it." The way to deal with it is to keep the clicker stakes low and accountability for cheating high.

The 5% Principle

Low stakes, Mr. Bruff says, means that professors use clicker answers for 5 percent of the grade and no more. In his own courses, that level of incentive has raised attendance rates—real attendance, not clicker phantoms—by 20 percent. More important, he says, students in his class of 50 are participating and interacting on an individual level. That, he suggests, should be the primary reason for using the devices.

At Georgetown University, Matthew B. Hamilton, an associate professor of biology, adheres to the 5-percent limit. He also polices his students to see if they are using more than one clicker by having teaching assistants circulate the room during clicker quizzes.

And he, like Mr. Bruff, believes that the devices have real advantages. The interactivity of clickers outweighs the hassle of monitoring students and keeping of fresh batteries on hand, Mr. Hamilton says.

By specifically outlining for students how clicker cheating violates academic honor codes, Mr. Bruff says, universities can clarify the situation for students and bolster professors' positions. "The instructor can point to the honor code—the university has decided that this counts as cheating, so it's not just me being a tough guy. It's that this is commonly accepted as inappropriate," he says.

That kind of clarity works, says Mr. Duncan. At Boulder, the student-enforced honor code takes a strong stance against all forms of cheating. It's one reason that, since the first physics class he watched, he has used clickers for nearly a decade and has caught students cheating only twice.

You can continue reading here.


September 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Law School Admissions and Helicopter Parents

I suspect that we all encounter young students who are unhappy because either (1) their parents pushed them into going to law school or (2) their parents pushed them into going to a law school with which the students were not enamoured. Sometimes we have students who are quite happy, but their parents push them to transfer. Although parents certainly should play a role in the decision making, they should not be the sole decision makers.

 Here is a link to a letter that Mary Lou Bates, the Director of Admissions at Skidmore College, has written to parents. The letter could easily be revised and distributed to the parents of potential law school students.


September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Another Article Defending Law Schools: Students' High Expectations

Dean Ken Gormley of Duquesne has published an editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette defending law schools. It was written in response to an earlier commentary that had complained about the lack of high paying legal jobs.

He declares:

"Articles like the one in the Post-Gazette and a spate of recent stories in national publications bemoaning the inability of law schools to guarantee lucrative salaries for their graduates after they receive their diplomas convey precisely the wrong message."

He continues:

"The Post-Gazette writer described entry-level legal salaries of $60,000 as "measly." With all due respect, there are many important jobs -- serving on the legal staff of foundations, working for nonprofits assisting children and minorities, serving one's country in the Navy JAG Corps -- that pay such "measly" amounts. As with new graduates of medical schools who perform residencies at salaries that do not translate into instant condos in Hawaii, these jobs provide experience that is irreplaceable."

 He concludes:

"It is true that many talented lawyers will become very successful and do extremely well financially. But that should not be the principal purpose of entering law or any other profession. . . .  Yet the best reason for a young man or woman to attend law school is the same as it was a century ago: to ably represent fellow citizens and to help the justice system work effectively."

Dean Gormley has hit upon a problem that has not been discussed much recently--that most law students are expecting to graduate from law school and immediately earn a high salary.  Getting a high salary right out of law school has never been possible for most graduates.  As with most professions, in the legal field, you must start at the bottom and work your way up.  When I graduated from law school in 1989, most legal aid offices were advertizing salaries that were barely above minimum wage for about 60 hours a week.  A lot of my classmates did not get jobs, but had to work as solos.

Law students and prospective law students today have unrealistic expectations.  Just read the Most Prestigious Law School Board sometime.  As we have noted in a previous posts (here and here), schools have taught students self-esteem, rather than dealing realistically with life.  Life is never easy, especially in this economy.

Of course, Law Prof  has already criticized this article, calling it "fantastically dishonest from beginning to end.  Almost every single substantive assertion in it is either a flat-out lie or at best a grotesque distortion or oversimplification."  I miss the days of reasoned debate, rather than hyperbole. 



September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Free downloads for Fed. R. Civ Pro.; Fed R. Crim. Pro.; and Fed. R. Evid.

Hat tip to 3 Geeks and a Law Blog:

The great people over at CALI (Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction), have partnered with the Legal Information Institute (LII) at Cornell Law School to bring free* .epub files of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure and Evidence. The downloads will currently work on iPads, iPhones, Nooks, and other devices that can read the .epub format (like Mobipocket if you're on Windows).

Note: These are E-Book formats, so it won't work in your PDF Reader.

This isn't just a bare-bones version of the Rules, either. The ebooks have the following features built into this initial version (with promises of more to come):
  • The complete rules as of December 1, 2010.
  • All notes of the Advisory Committee immediately following each rule.
  • Internal links to rules referenced within the rules.
  • External links to the LII website's version of the US Code.
For those of you that aren't in Academia, you may not be as familiar with CALI and the great training programs they produce. There are a number of things they produce that aren't just for law students. Law firms can access the lessons, innovations, and online materials for the embarrassing low price of $250 a year. Even for those law firms that are cheap, this is a bargain.

September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Clinical tenure track position available

Here's the posting:

Tenured or Tenure-Track Position
THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS, FAYETTEVILLE, SCHOOL OF LAW seeks to fill one or more tenured or tenure-track positions for the 2012–2013 academic year.
Our primary curricular need is for a programmatic tenured or tenure-track position in the legal clinic. The legal clinic is an in-house, live client clinic which enables student attorneys to provide legal assistance to indigents, governmental agencies and charitable organizations. The professor will teach traditional civil clinical classes, but the position is also likely to involve administrative responsibilities. The extent and nature of those duties will be determined by the credentials and experience of the candidate.
Candidates for the clinical position should have a distinguished academic record and significant practice or equivalent experience. Preferred qualifications include two or more years of experience as a clinical teacher. Applicants must also be eligible to supervise students under Rule XV of the Arkansas Rules Governing Bar Admission. Those rules require that the candidate either be, or become prior to the beginning of the appointment, a member of the Arkansas Bar. In the alternative, a lawyer not admitted to practice in Arkansas may supervise students for up to one year, providing the lawyer is admitted to practice and is in good standing in another state, and has had at least five years of practice in another state.
We also welcome applications from candidates interested in teaching first year and required courses, or other subjects depending on future needs. We have a special interest in attracting applicants who are eager to integrate lawyering skills opportunities into their doctrinal courses and to develop related lawyering skills courses.
Applicants should submit a letter of application indicating teaching and scholarly interests, and attach a current resume or curriculum vitae together with three professional references to Mary Beth Matthews, Appointments Committee Chair, WH 313 University of Arkansas School of Law, Fayetteville AR 72701. Applications may also be submitted by email to
The University of Arkansas is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Institution committed to achieving a culturally diverse faculty. We encourage applications from all qualified candidates, especially individuals who contribute to the social, ethnic, and gender diversity of our faculty and academic community. Applications will be accepted without regard to age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation or national origin. Applicants must have proof of legal authority to work in the United States.


September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How much information are online legal research vendors gathering about users?

That's the question poised by rethinc.k, a blog about the legal publishing business.

[D]o you have any clue how much your preferred CALR vendor knows about you? (That includes Thomson Reuters Professional (yes, get used to saying it because Westlaw and WestlawNext will be going away soon), Lexis Advance (yes, not just Lexis any longer), Loislaw, Fastcase, or Casemaker.) Even better, do you have any clue how much they know about your clients? After all, you associate every transaction with a client-matter (C/M) don’t you? I sometimes wonder how much these CALR vendors could know about you (lawyer/law firm) and your clients at any given moment. Sure, they might not know names, but they would know if related C/M are facing pharma litigation and, say, Federal Corrupt Practices Act violations. For large law, how hard would it be to match C/M data, account data, and public data to determine who your clients are and the specific problems they are facing? And if they, the CALR vendors, were interested in selling services directly to your clients’ corporate counsel, imagine how much those businesses might already know about your clients’ exposure and vulnerabilities. If you think CALR vendors are on your side, you might want to stop and consider just how much they actually know about what you do, and how they plan to compete with your own data. In other words, do you just read the contracts to determine what databases you’re subscribing to and how much you pay each year for three years, or do you actually read them to determine what those companies are doing with your data? Clearly, Thomson Reuters is already using your data to inform search, so what else might they be doing, particularly in light of their Pangea3 acquisition? These are just questions, and ones that I haven’t seen on the Tubes oddly.

The funny thing is that I’m just waiting for some enterprising lawyer to test the limits of the work-product doctrine with CALR vendors by asking for search histories associated with opposing counsel’s clients. The only reason I can think it hasn’t happened yet is the fact that the enterprising young lawyer would have to reveal his or hers as well. Either way, it’s only a matter of time before it happens.


September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How to reduce, if not avoid, stress

Who doesn't need help with this? From the Estrin Report, a blog for paralegals and those who love them.

1.    Figure out what stresses you.  That's right.  Half the time, we don't even recognize it.  For example, it took me a long time to realize that it wasn't going swimming every day that stressed me out.  It was the idea that I had to get in the car, drive 20 minutes to the Y, get changed in the locker room in front of 47 very elderly women, all with bluish gray hair, Cobby Cuddler shoes and bodies a 20 year old would die for.

2.    Eliminate unnecessary commitments.  Why, oh why, do we say yes to things when we mean no?  I don't like having lunch with (Jane).  She bores me to tears.  Yet, I can't say no.  So once a month, I'm off to have lunch with her at a restaurant I don't like, can't afford and swear I won't go to again.  It's unnecessary.  I'll go every six months instead.

3.    Stop multi-tasking:  The buzz word of the '90's and naughts.  Who came up with that word, anyway? Everyone multi-tasks.  It seems to me that if we didn't multi-task, rather did one thing at a time until we've finished it, we might get more done.  I'm getting a little bit tired of talking on the phone, drafting an email, eating my lunch and listening to an eDiscovery webinar all at the same time.  My conversations don't make sense, I make too many typos in my emails, I don't know what I just ate, and furthermore, I haven't a clue what the webinar was about. 

4.    Unschedule.  That's right.  Stop scheduling so much.  Before Outlook days, we used to make a phone call to someone when the urge or need struck us.  Now, we have to compose an email to ask for an appropriate time, send the email, wait for the return reply, go back and forth a bit, book the teleconference and then confirm - spending half an hour just to get 7 minutes with someone on some unimportant confab we didn't need to begin with.  Make an appointment to make the telephone call?  Puleeze.

5.    Avoid difficult people.  Just avoid them.  Who needs that anyway?  Some ranting, raving power hungry person who is plays passive-aggressively in their emails to you - someone who gives you heartburn just because they can?  No to that.  Avoid 'em.    Being nice isn't working anyway and you wouldn't want what you really feel to be in print.  Nope.  No answering here.

6.    Eliminate energy drains.  What is draining your energy?  Eliminate it.  Or them in your life. People who insist on drama, situations that call for much more input than you want to give.  Yep.  Eliminate all of it.  Of course, I consider going to the dentist an energy drain.  I might want to reconsider that.

7.    Help others.  It just gives you a great lift.  I found that by helping others, I felt great.  Even if it was a temporary lift - giving out a scholarship to a course, helping someone with a resume, sending a note with a few names that could help someone who is having a rough time.   All of that.  Takes your focus off of you, even for just a little while.

8.    Slow down. Instead of rushing through life, learn to take things just a little bit slower.  Enjoy your food, enjoy the people around you, enjoy nature.  This step alone can save tons of stress.  Where I live, I see road runners, bunny rabbits, crows,  owls and coyotes.  Never, ever saw that in the big city when I lived there.  Well, ok, so I have to carry pepper spray when I walk the dog in case the coyotes want to come after him.  But the intent is there.

9.    Be grateful.  Developing an attitude of gratitude (I sound like a rapper) is a way of thinking positive, eliminating negative thinking and reduces stress. Learn to be grateful for what you have, for the people in your life, and see it as a gift. With this sort of outlook on life, stress will go down and happiness will go up. What could I possibly be grateful for?  Hmmmm......for one, you took just a few minutes out of your busy day just to read this post.  For that I am grateful and my life is just a little bit less stressful.

Hat tip to Legal Blog Watch.


September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Fastest Growing Group of Bankruptcy Filers: College Grads

College graduates are the fastest-growing group of consumers who have filed for bankruptcy protection in the past five years, according to a new study by a financial nonprofit, which underscores the broad reach of the Great Recession.

The survey by the Institute for Financial Literacy, slated for release Tuesday, found that the percentage of debtors with a bachelor’s degree rose from 11.2 percent in 2006 to 13.6 percent in 2010. The group tracked similar but smaller increases in consumers with two-year associate and graduate degrees.

Note that consumers with graduate degrees are filing in greater numbers. The percentage of bankruptcy debtors with a graduate degree was 5.9 in 2000 and was 6.7 in 2010. Here is the article from the  Washington Post.


September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

PACER Fees Increase on Nov. 1

The U.S. Courts announced this week that PACER fees will increase as of November 1, 2011.  See the press release here.

“The Conference also authorized an increase in the Judiciary's electronic public access fee in response to increasing costs for maintaining and enhancing the electronic public access system. The increase in the electronic public access (EPA) fee, from $.08 to $.10 per page, is needed to continue to support and improve the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system, and to develop and implement the next generation of the Judiciary's Case Management/Electronic Case Filing system.”

Although the increase is only two cents per page, for some researchers it will be a significant increase.  The Legal Research Plus (Stanford) blog has posted a survey to measure whether the PACER fee increase will change research habits.  You can access the post and survey here.

I agree with blogger Erika Wayne’s suggestion that you may want to explore RECAP and make the resource known to your students and researchers.  RECAP is a Firefox extension that works with PACER and helps researchers identify when free documents are available.


September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Vault ranks summer associate programs for best overall, most realistic, most fun and most practical


For the first time, has released a new set of rankings of law firm summer associate programs. With thousands of law students seeking summer associate positions within law firms each year, the summer associate rankings provide job seekers with insights into the overall best summer programs, as well as the programs deemed most fun, most realistic and best at preparing summer associates for practice. Snagging the No. 1 spot for best overall summer program is intellectual property firm Fish & Richardson. The Boston-based firm edged out Baker & Hostetler and Cravath, Swaine & Moore for the top ranking. But Cravath claimed the No. 1 spot for providing the most realistic experience and preparing summer associates for real legal practice, making it the only firm with the top ranking in more than one category. Coming in at No. 1 for the most fun summer associate program was Ropes & Gray.   

Vault is the source of employer ratings, rankings and insight for law students. Its annual law firm ranking—the Vault Law 100—is considered the “bible” for law students, associates, partners and law firm recruiters, providing a detailed perspective on the criteria considered by candidates when evaluating law firms. This year, the survey was taken by approximately 16,000 law firm associates and included newly-added questions on summer associate programs.   Associates’ ratings of their firms’ summer programs provided valuable first-hand data for Vault’s summer associate rankings.

“Selecting a summer program is a major career step for those pursuing law firm practice—many go on to start their legal careers at their summer firms,” said Mary Kate Sheridan, Vault’s Law Editor. “If done well, a summer program can provide a law student with insight into the firm’s practice, the culture of the firm and whether the firm matches the student’s career goals.”

The Top 10 Law Firm Summer Associate Programs are offered by:

1.  Fish & Richardson

2.  Baker & Hostetler          

3.  Cravath, Swaine & Moore

4.  Williams & Connolly

5.  Arent Fox   

6.  Baker & McKenzie                   

7.  Dewey & LeBoeuf / Ropes & Gray (tie) 

8.  Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton      

9.  Chadbourne & Parke 

10. Venable

The Most Realistic Summer Associate Program: Cravath, Swaine & Moore

The Most Fun Summer Associate Program: Ropes & Gray

The Summer Associate Program that Best Prepares for Practice: Cravath, Swaine & Moore

Check out the complete list of rankings here.



September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Want to be a happy lawyer? You need to believe in the cause

From the always interesting Careerist column at Lawjobs. com:

"It's the Cause, Stupid."

I'd love to generalize that all lawyers are miserable, complaining drones, but I have to confess that I do run into exceptions. Curiously, some of the most content lawyers I know work dreadful hours--and for a relative pittance.

Such is the case with the lawyers at the Center for Reproductive Rights, a group that advocates for reproductive freedom internationally, which draws many of its 33 lawyers (31 are women) from big firms. Besides taking a big salary cut from their private-sector jobs and getting little work/life balance in return, they're on the front lines of a cause that some find distasteful: abortion rights.

So why would anyone want to give up a nice big law firm job to be a pariah at the country club? Simple: They believe in the cause.

 "I feel passionate about women and reproductive rights," says Julie Rikelman, a senior staff attorney at the center, who recently left her job as a vice president of the legal department at NBC Universal. A former associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Rikelman serves as the lead lawyer in a suit against Texas, challenging a state law that requires doctors to show ultrasounds of the fetus to a woman prior to an abortion. (Texas is appealing a ruling that found parts of the law to be unconstitutional.)

"My daughters played a major role in my decision [to leave the private sector]," says Rikelman.  "Having two girls, I wanted them to be proud of me." She adds that she always knew she wanted to go into civil rights: "I'm about to turn 40, and life is short."

Another lawyer who recently joined the Center is Johanna Fine, a former project finance lawyer at White & Case.  Fine says she picked White & Case because it had an international network that she thought could be enlisted for pro bono work in reproductive rights. Eventually, Fine got 15 of White & Case's offices (plus 85 of the firm's lawyers) to work on matters for the center. (Fine had worked with the center in Kenya, representing HIV-positive women, prior to joining the firm).

That kind of single-minded dedication is crucial to working at a place like the center. "You have to  be passionate about the mission," says Nancy Northup, the center's president. "We look for people who have excelled and demonstrated commitment to reproductive rights in volunteer work, pro bono work, internships in public interest." She adds: "Most of our cases are of first impression, and you have to think of new ways to expand jurisprudence . . . you need to be a top-notch lawyer."

The center can afford to be choosy about its hires."It's pretty tough getting a job here," says Northup, noting that even unpaid internships draw "hundreds of applicants." But plenty of people (okay, it's almost all women; the applicant pool is "substantially unbalanced," laments Northup) are willing to brave those odds.

Though the work can be terrific, the lifestyle is less so. "The hours are not that much better than firms; we try to be supportive of working moms, but it's a challenge," says Northup. "But the personal satisfaction is significant."

You can read the rest here.


September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

I guess we can soon stop teaching negotiation skills

We've talked before about the rise of the lawyer-bots and the "hollowing out" of the legal profession whereby BigLaw partners get richer while software (not to mention offshoring and inexpensive online providers like Rocket Lawyer) threatens the livelihood of solos, small firm practitioners and associates in connection with many routine, bread and butter tasks like drafting wills and transactional work. E-discover software already does a better job at document review than flesh and blood lawyers.

In a similar vein, the blog "Associate's Mind" has posted a story suggesting that software will soon replace at least some of the negotiations now done by lawyers. For parties who agree to submit their dispute to a computer, a software algorithm can produce optimal settlement terms for both parties at a cheaper cost to clients because it obviates the need for attorney involvement

First, an excerpt from the Economist discussing "gaming" theorists who see the potential for the use of software in negotiations.

                      [T]here are also efforts to develop software that can assist in negotiation and                                               mediation…

Difficult negotiations can often be nudged along by neutral mediators, especially if they are entrusted with the secret bottom lines of all parties. Dr Clara Ponsatí’s [a Spanish academic] idea was that if a human mediator was not trusted, affordable or available, a computer could do the job instead. Negotiating parties would give the software confidential information on their bargaining positions after each round of talks. Once positions on both sides were no longer mutually exclusive, the software would split the difference and propose an agreement. Dr Ponsatí, now head of the Institute of Economic Analysis at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, says such “mediation machines” could lubricate negotiations by unlocking information that would otherwise be withheld from an opponent or human mediator.

Such software is now emerging. Barry O’Neill, a game theorist at UCLA, describes how it can facilitate divorce settlements. A husband and wife are each given a number of points which they secretly allocate to household assets they desire. The wife may inform the software that her valuation of the family car is, say, 15 points. If the husband puts the car’s value at 10 points, he cannot later claim that he deserves more compensation for not getting the car than she would be entitled to."

And an Associate's Mind take on it:

Two parties on opposite sides of the negotiating table merely need to assign value to their positions and let the computer do the rest. No pesky human emotions can get in the way. Is this the future of negotiations? Will people acquiesce to a computer handling and weighing the most intimate aspects of their lives and personal belongings?

To be honest, I think it is inevitable. Anyone under 30 years old, already implicitly trust computers with nearly every aspect of their lives. Need an answer to something? Let me Google that for you. Relying on a computer to objectively weigh a divorce will seem like a regular, perhaps even necessary step to younger generations.


What about beyond divorce? What about routine settlement negotiations that happen in every aspect of civil litigation. What if parties could merely input points of data at the beginning of filing a law suit, and let a computer decide what is a fair outcome? Would clients prefer that to years of discovery and legal bills, all purely for jockeying and better positioning during settlement negotiations?

Some might, some might not. It would likely depend on the value of the law suit. But regardless of whether clients choose to use such services, there are game theorists and computer engineers out there right now, working to make such an option a reality.

Continue reading here.


September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A video explaining how West creates headnotes and editorial enhancements for cases

Have you ever wondered where those Westlaw headnotes come from?  If you think it's a bunch of little elves in a hollow tree then you need to check out this video showing how it's really done. Since this is the time of year when 1L's are learning how to do legal research, you might find this video an especially helpful teaching tool that explains in real time how West creates all the editorial enhancements that lawyers depend on.

It's a pretty effective way to help students better understand digest topics and the key numbering system. Enjoy!


September 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Texas Law on Barratry

Barratry(?) Do you remember that term from your law school Ethics course? It means “ambulance chasing.” Texas recently enacted a statute that creates a civil action against overly ambitious lawyers. Here is a summary from the Texas Lawyer:

The 82nd Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1716 on May 6, and Gov. Rick Perry signed it May 19. It is codified at Government Code §82.065.

The statute says if an attorney secured any legal contract by violating barratry-related state laws or barratry-related rules in the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, the client could sue to void the contract.

Under the old law, only contingent-fee contracts were voidable, but S.B. 1716 broadens the reach to any type of legal contract. A client who prevailed in voiding a contract could recover attorney's fees and expenses already paid to the lawyer, as well as actual damages and attorney's fees.

However, if the client failed to prove the lawyer engaged in or had actual knowledge of the barratry, the lawyer could collect expenses and fees for completed work, despite the voided contract, on a quantum meruit basis.

To receive those attorney's fees, the lawyer would have to report the barratry to the State Bar of Texas, unless another person had already reported it or reporting the barratry would harm the client.

The law also allows a barratry victim who didn't sign a legal contract to bring a civil action against "any person who committed barratry." A prevailing plaintiff would win a $10,000 penalty from "attorneys or other persons" who engaged in barratry, as well as actual damages and attorney's fees.

One wonders if the statute will result in much litigation. Certainly lawyers will be documenting how clients came to them. Attorneys wishing to represent plaintiffs who have been the subject of barratry may find it difficult to document verbal conversations needed to provide the essential evidence. Finally, there has to be a fine line between ambulance chasing in a personal injury case and the sort of subtle and unsubtle soliciting in which that big firm lawyers engage.


September 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Congratulations to Skills Prof Editor Chris Wren for winning "Best-out-of-State" brief in Texas Bar Twitter competition

Our own Chris Wren, assistant editor here at the Legal Skills Prof Blog, just won "Honorable Mention" for submitting the "Best-out-of-State" entry in the State Bar of Texas Appellate Section's recent Twitter brief competition. Chris, who is far too humble to post this himself, is an Assistant Attorney General for the Wisconsin Department of Justice in the criminal appeals division.

As we had previously reported (here too), the Texas Bar Appellate Section held a contest to determine who could write the best brief in 140 characters or less per the limitations of Twitter. The original announcement stated:

Have you ever yearned for shorter page limits on appellate briefs?

Do you think any argument worth making can be done in 140 characters or less?

Do you think “twitter” is something birds do?

If you have answered “yes” (or “no”) to any of these questions, we have the perfect competition for you!

Chris' winning entry?

3 dead. Jury convicted. 1 issue. Suff evid: def on vidtape hlding gun & stnding ovr vics; pwdr on hand; DNA on gun; confession. Must affirm.

We're so proud! Congrats again, Chris.

Check out the Grand Prize winner and 'Honorable Mentions" in other categories like "Best Twitter Brief No One Can Understand," "Best Haiku Twitter Brief" and "Most Direct" by clicking here.



September 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pessimistic Quote of the Day

From the professorial perspective, the university exists to promote teaching by providing faculty members with classrooms, laboratories, libraries, computers, and other instructional resources. From the administrative perspective, however, the purpose of teaching is to [bring students} into its dormitories and classrooms. Administrators think teaching serves the university, not the converse.  

Ginsberg, Benjamin (2011). The Fall of the Faculty

I admit that I never thought about academic administration this way, but there is some truth in this insight.


September 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Federal Clerkship Resources

I had a student visit me at the reference desk the other day looking for some help with her first bench memo.  She wanted background information on the federal judicial system and some practical help with the legal issues she was to research.  Here are some helpful resources for law clerks and law students who want to know more about clerkships.

About the Courts/Handbooks

Understanding the Federal Courts is an introduction to the structure and function of federal courts with sections on the structure and jurisdiction of federal courts, the appointment of judges, etc. It is available here
Debra M Strauss, Behind the Bench: The Guide to Judicial Clerkships (2002) – more information here.

 Joseph L. Lemon, Federal Appellate Court Law Clerk Handbook (ABA 2007)

Calvert G. Chipchase, Federal District Court Law Clerk Handbook (ABA 2007)

Law Clerk Handbook: A Handbook for Law Clerks to Federal Judges – available online here.

Aliza Milner, Judicial Clerkships: Legal Methods in Motion (LexisNexis 2011)

Mary L. Dunnewold, Beth A. Honetschlager & Brenda L. Tofte, Judicial Clerkships: A Practical Guide (2010)

Happy researching and writing to all law clerks!



September 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 12, 2011

And speaking of low(er) cost alternatives, this "virtual" law firm is poised for big growth

A "virtual" law firm "based" in D.C.  boasts revenue that has "exploded," according to this story from the Washington Post via the ABA Journal blog.  And the firm is expecting substantial growth ahead.  The firm, Axiom, has no offices and no partners.  Instead, its lawyers work from home or at clients' offices and they bill at half the rate of their BigLaw counterparts. They don't do litigation but are a low-cost alternative to the traditional law firm for transactional and regulatory work.

Here's an excerpt from the story entitled "Nonconvetional law firm makes inroads in D.C. market" that provides a bit more detail.

Two years after jumping into the Washington market during the depths of the recession, ­­­Axiom Law, a legal services provider with an un­or­tho­dox business model, is making major inroads here.

Last month, Axiom reported 80 percent year-over-year revenue growth in its local office, and in-house lawyers at some of the region’s biggest companies are turning to the company as they look to trim legal costs.

Axiom is not technically a law firm: its attorneys don’t do litigation or give legal advice. But they do offer lower rates (typically between $150 and $275 per hour) for project-based work on transactional matters, contracts and regulatory and compliance-related research — the type of work businesses want done by experienced, skilled attorneys but don’t want to pay big firm rates for.

. . . .

Axiom is different from a staffing firm that maintains a roster of contract attorneys to pair with clients in need. Instead, Axiom employs attorneys — 600 worldwide, including 30 in Washington — full time. Most have at least eight years of law firm or in-house legal experience and make an average salary of $200,000 a year. Many come from in-house teams at Sprint, Nokia, Goldman Sachs and law firms including Davis Polk, Sullivan & Cromwell, Cleary Gottleib and WilmerHale.

The companies that use Axiom say it is more of a complement to outside counsel than a replacement.

. . . .

The firm began in New York in 2000 and opened its Washington office with one attorney in January 2009. It has since grown to 30, and is projecting 100 percent growth in the third quarter compared to the same period last year, thanks to major contracts that began in June and July, said general manager Will McKinnon. Across its nine offices in the United States, Hong Kong and London, the company has exploded from $1 million in revenue in 2002 to $80 million last year.

“We bring a different perspective to getting legal work done. That’s why we can bill lower,” McKinnon said.

Other low-cost firms (Paragon in San Francisco, FSB Legal in Atlanta, Outside GC in Boston and Philips & Reiter in Houston) have created successful niches in regional markets, and observers say the model has staying power.

“I think the world is ready for alternative methods of legal service delivery other than the traditional law firm,” said Jeffrey Lowe, managing partner of the Washington office of legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa. “I think the clients are much more sophisticated and well-informed than they used to be.”


September 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)